Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 5, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

WAS BUSH AWOL?....ANOTHER LOOK....Since the Swift Boat lunatics are insisting that we bring the early 70s back into the news, it's back to the 70s we shall go. But not quite to the same place as the Swifties.

Instead, let's take a look at some new evidence about George Bush's infamous five-month absence from the National Guard during 1972. As you may recall, both payroll records and retirement records from 1972 show that Bush appeared for his unit's monthly drills in April 1972, skipped five consecutive months without permission, and finally appeared again for a drill in October.

Needless to say, this is not allowed: members of the National Guard are required to attend drills ("Unit Training Assemblies," or UTAs) one weekend a month (plus two additional weeks of active duty each year) to fulfull their requirements. Bush claims that he made up for his missed drills, and in fact the records show that he attended a number of drills in late 1972 and the first half of 1973. So everything's kosher, right? Bush screwed up a bit, but later made amends.

As it turns out, not quite. Paul Lukasiak has been examining Bush's payroll records with a microscope and has discovered an interesting thing down in the fine print: a series of codes that show not just the dates of the drills Bush attended, but the dates they were credited toward. For example, a drill in January might be part of January's requirement, but it might also be either a makeup for a missed drill in the previous month or a makeup for a drill that he planned to miss the following month. Paul has all the gruesome detail at his site, but here's his summary breakdown of how to read the payroll codes:

So did Bush make up his missed drills? In a word, no. The table below is Paul's reconstruction of the payroll data and shows that none of the drills Bush attended after his five-month absence were performed to make up for his missed drills.

Training Dates

Month Credited

October 28-29

October 1972

November 11-12

November

November 13-14

December

January 4-5

January 1973

January 6-8

February

January 9-10

March

April 7-8

April

May 19-20

May

June 23-24

June

July 21-22

July

July 16-17

August

July 18-19

September

So what do we know? We know that Bush skipped five months of drills without permission, but we've known that since last March. In addition, though, we now know that despite what he says, Bush never made up any of the drills he missed.

By itself, this might or might not be a big deal. However, in addition to a disturbingly large number of still unanswered questions about his service, it's clear that in mid-1972 Lt. Bush decided to skip his required annual physical and quit flying and apparently nobody complained. He then missed five months of drills and was never required to make them up. Despite this, in 1973 he was transferred to the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver, no disciplinary was action taken, and in 1974 he was honorably discharged.

Who pulled the strings to make this happen? And why?

POSTSCRIPT: Paul's main site is here. I don't understand all of it (yet...) and can't vouch for everything he says, but of course you're welcome to read it and make up your own mind.

Kevin Drum 7:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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